Archive for the ‘gardens’ Category

Rats! There go the Brussels Sprouts…

June 19, 2009

My family loves Brussels Sprouts – those perfect little piquant globes of green goodness in the wintertime. So, there had to be a row of these plants in my new vegie garden. Of course, if there were going to grow Brussels Sprouts, there also had to be had a supply of Kale and Kohlrabi, two cruciferous vegetables I associate with my early life in Hungary. There were already three burgeoning Zucchini plants taking over one end of my little plot, promising enough produce to satisfy our Zucchini-loving Scottie, my tendency to hide shredded Zucchini in all sorts of dishes (Rumpole hates Zucchini! – so it has to masquerade as something else) and to provide ammunition for my planned late-summer stealth Zucchini bombings by night of our neighbours front stoops.

So there we were, outside by the rows to be planted – Jessica, Lookingforbeauty and me. Seedlings at the ready we busied ourselves planting before nightfall. Lookingforbeauty was placing onion seedlings into available unplanted spots in the rows. I was fluffing up Kale fronds and admiring them, when all of a sudden Lookingforbeauty uttered “Shoo, dog!” I looked up from my admiration of new green seedlings to spot Jessica sprawled, nonchalant among the Brussels Sprouts rows, working her jaws over a healthy bit of growth. I leaped up and made to chase her away, at which threatening gesture she merely hopped to her feet, threw herself onto the grass verge and began to roll around luxuriously, meanwhile keeping a beady eye open should I reach her to give her a swat on the bum.

I made like a shreaking scarecrow, but she simply sprinted around in the garden, making spectacular leaps over the vegetable rows. I looked at the damage she had done to the Brussels Sprouts. Four plants chewed down to their roots in the ground! By this time, Jessica was hiding behind the already planted Kohlrabi on the other side of the row. She was starting in on the Kohlrabi leaves, meanwhile peering out at me from under her awning-like eyebrows. I chased her around some more. She is short and fat, but boy can she move when motivated!

“You’re going to have to keep her out of this garden,” commented Lookingforbeauty. “It’s your own fault, G, for giving her all kinds of vegetables as treats. You spoil that dog!”

“But, just look at that little mug – those saucy eyes, that gooofy clowning she does. I can’t resist her in the slightest.” I said. “At least vegetables are good for her – the vitamins, you know?”

But, I have decided. Those remaining Brussels Sprouts will be in the forefront of my vigilance against the depredations of my vegetarian pooch. So will the Kohlrabi, Kale and Zucchini. If she behaves herself for the rest of the growing season, I promise to let her sample the produce come harvest time. I’m sure Rumpole will not be heart-broken to share the Zucchini bounty with her. Hah!


October 26, 2007

This morning we woke to infernal grindings and bangings. Machinery howled outside, nearby. The house shook on its foundation. The floors trembled, the dishes in the sideboard set up a symphony of silvery tinkling. The General streaked by my feet in a panic and ran from room to room seeking shelter from the dangers posed by this unexplainable noise. Wrapping my fuzzy bathrobe around my girth, I staggered from window to window, seeking out the source for our rude awakening. Out on the street a long-armed mechanical monster sawed at the concrete roadway. It made repeated passes, howling in protest against resistance from the hardened surface.

Rumpole emerged from the bedroom. “What’s going on?” he croaked. “Coffee, I need coffee!” He made his way from room to room and to suss out where the noises were coming from. Meanwhile I set up the coffee-maker. As we were waiting for the coffee to drip through we leaned over the sink to look at all the bustle outside. Trucks beeped as they backed up to loaders. The concrete saw progressed toward the corner by increments followed by a machine that pounded the sliced pavement into rubble. Under us the floor shook. The General whizzed by our ankles as he made a mad dash for the safety of the bedroom .

Rumpole poured himself a cup. He looked rumpled and bleary eyed. “What’s the progress on the hedge?”he asked. “Are you sending Bob to get the little shrubs from Pickett’s today?” We discussed the uselessness of going through with the insurance claim. The deductible is an obscene amount. Being somewhat of an instant gratification kind of guy, Rumpole expressed that he prefers the hedge to return to instant normalcy, as if it had never been damaged. We debated the wisdom of this. I pointed it out to him that we were going to be in this house until we were carried out feet first, so we did have the time to let cedar seedlings take their time to grow. “What’s the rush?” I put to him. He capitulated to my reasonings. I can be persuasive, when motivated. Also stubborn in getting my own way.

As Rumpole left the house, he wondered aloud if it would take him a long time to get out of our driveway. I watched for a while as he approached the workmen near our lawn to ask for help in leaving. Then he sat for a long time in the car, waiting to be given the go. He is not a patient fellow, so I was very impressed with his calm demeanor while waiting. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so impressed. What choice did he have anyway?

After a longish idle in the driveway, he drove off, dodging heavy equipment. I sat at the kitchen table, nursed my cup and let my mind wander.

Today, By-Line Woman is one day post-op. She had her first shoulder-replacement yesterday. This is a repair to help ease her constant pain and inability to use her arm to do all manner of chores. She should be back home by this evening. Will her pain be managed well? It’s frustrating to realize that I cannot help her in practical ways. On the other hand, she does have a close and helpful family, and they will be doing everything to ease her healing time.

This evening Obsessive/Compulsive Shopaholic and her mate Prissy German Tourist are arriving to spent the weekend with us. OCS had an accident at work a couple of weeks ago. She fell into a three-foot hole in the floor of the copy room at the new building to which her nursing unit was moved. She cracked four ribs, sprained her ankle and was concussed. These days, she no longer has to use a walker to get about, and has stopped howling in pain. So, she is bored and needing entertainment. I guess this is best provided by visiting friends. Anyway, I am happy to see them both, to get caught up on their trials and tribulations of nudging their growing sons into adulthood. Maybe help the healing process by providing opportunity for laughter, kvetching,eating curry and watching a video together. I can bug PGT about getting his act together and sending his digital images to the LA gallery which wants to show his work. He needs encouragement, pats, maybe some strong language to convince him that he should risk exposure.

Bob plans to fill the gaps in the hedge tomorrow. I am waiting to hear from the retinologist on Monday to give me a date for the operation to put a new lens in my left eye.  This repair will much improve life for me. It promises me a return to  a semblance of independence.

This confluence of occasions for repair amazes me. Life is like that. 

An insurance claim…

October 22, 2007

Life in suburbia can be so surprising. Yesterday morning, when Kay from next door came over for a coffee break, as she came in the front door she said, “G, take a look at your hedge.” So, poking my head out the front door, I took a look. There was a gap in the hedge, five cedars worth. It looked like the gumline of an aging derelict. The downed cedars lay crushed inward on what passes for our lawn. I called Rumpole out to look.

“A hit and run, fly-by-night kind of thing, ” he announced, “it must have been some drunk”.

“Yeah,” I grumbled, ” whoever it was sure took the corner early, like 20 feet early.”

Kay says, wisely “you need to put some great massive boulders out there. That might save your cedars and give injury to sloppy drivers’ cars.” Sure, and look like we have landscaping a la Flintstones, I’m thinking. What we need is a suburban fortification? A neighbour a block away has a course of huge rocks lining the edge of his property. Every time I walked by with the dogs it would not have surprised me to see a TV shoot for the original Star Trek with Captain Kirk and Bones huddled fearful behind a boulder, requesting Scotty to beam them up to the Enterprise. It is that kind of cheesy effect that one might like not to emulate on a suburban plot. Rumpole likes the idea of rubble out front. But over my dead old body will this happen!

Once back inside, Rumpole leaves it up to me to problem-o-solve. As he maintains “I do Law, you do House.” I search out Bob’s phone number from the side of the fridge.  Bob does the yearly cut of our vigorous hedges, and has done so since Rumpole ended up in Emergency after tackling the hedge trimming with his brand new electric hedge-clippers a couple of years back. Bob is very efficient and not nearly so dramatic as Rumpole at carrying out this task.

As Kay and Rumpole sit and drink their libations, I phone Bob.

“Is it an insurance claim?” he asks. What, for a hedge, is he kidding? I’m thinking. He arranges to come over next day to quote on the replacement of the missing cedars.

I mention the possibility of an insurance claim to Rumpole and Kay. We sit around sipping coffee and scratching our heads. Hit and run hedge killing? Seems a bit far-fetched. We go on to discuss more interesting things.

Later in the evening Dry Sherry calls. She has now a permanent job at the big Gallery as an animateur. Happy with this posting. I pass on to her Martha’s compliments on how well she led a group of high school teachers through the latest exhibition on a workshop. DS is glad of positive feedback. We talk about how difficult it is for DS to continue to train her horse for dressage competitions, now that she is working full time. For some strange reason I bring up the downed cedars and just how irritated I am at this turn of events.

“You have an ICBC insurance claim”, she says. ” My father-in-law, just down the street from you regularly has to replace parts of his hedge. When drivers lose control of their cars over the bridge before his property in the wintertime, he has the same dilemma. Make your claim through ICBC.”

The penny dropped. After I ended the call with Dry Sherry, I mentioned the possibility to Rumpole in his den. We kind of gazed at each other, somewhat stupefied. We can do this? It seems so frivolous an action. We finally crunch numbers on the cost of replacing the cedars and determine since our insurance costs are so high we may as well make use of them somehow. Still, it seems somewhat an odd claim.

Today I phoned ICBC. It is not such a simple matter as talking directly to an insurance adjustor. You call, get put on hold to listen to Wayne Newton crooning “Feelings”, then some other elevator music for about a half an hour until “Thank you for continuing to hold. Our operator will be shortly with you” is announced, and you hold onto the phone with a death grip, waiting and waiting. When you “do house” and arrange for help for anything, you tend to do a lot of this holding for the next operator.

The Adjustor finally comes on line. “Have you callled the police?” he asks.

“The only living thing that died was a number of hedging cedars. Do the Police care about this?” I ask.

“Madam, we will determine whether you will need to call the police.” he replies. What? What? Do the police really have time for this, I’m thinking?

So the upshot is, later this week an adjustor will come out to take pictures of our downed cedars, make or not make a suggestion to have the police involved in a drive-by cedar downing. The whole thing is ridiculous. Surely there are better ways to spend one’s time than on something this frivolous. I mean it’s just a bloody hedge.

I am really having a hard time with this. In suburbia, one does what is required to keep up appearances, and has an insurance claim to be able to do so.  There are people who cannot afford medical insurance. I feel as if we exist in some weird dream world with skewed priorities that make no sense.


August 9, 2007

The Horn of Plenty – cornucopia.  

If I owned a shipping line these days, maybe Cornucopia Ltd. would be a good company name. So much of what we, here in North America (and elsewhere in the world), use and consume come to us transported by ships. These ply the oceans and seas, trafficking in exchanged resources and goods.

If I owned a grocery store chain, I’d be tempted to have Cornucopia as my corporate name. Somehow obtaining my food at a store called Cornucopia would be more attractive to me than shopping at, say, Thrifty Foods or Overwaitea or Safeway. The name sounds somewhat more promising of plenty.

If  necessity dictated a smaller commercial dream for me, as in a road-side fruit stand, or a small corner grocery store, a sign identifying my place of business might very well read “Cornucopia”, or for those less inclined to Latinisms, “The Horn of Plenty”.

In  a recent conversation, Lucky mentioned that her cousin, a blueberry farmer in the Fraser Valley expects to have this year’s blueberry crop to be 60% less than in previous years. Because of rains during June and much of July, the berries didn’t mature as expected, and those that did split during intermittent hot sunny days.  These split berries are useful mostly for making jam.

Our local back roads have many small kiosks selling blueberries.  The quality of the berries is dependent in which weather they were picked.  The berries are much more expensive this year.  More than likely, the better quality berries are earmarked for shipping elsewhere. No “Horn of Plenty” roadside fruit-stands this year for us locals.

Then, too, not all blueberry producers use organic farming practices. People who wish to only buy and consume organic blueberries have to pay a hefty premium. Generally, the large local grocery chain stores sell sprayed blueberries, and even these are more costly this year.

There are not many growers of organic blueberries in our community. One, who has been in business for over ten years, had his fields cut in half this past year, so that a highway approach on to the proposed new bridge over the Fraser River could be built through his bisected farm. The decision to sacrifice good growing land so that commuters in cars have reduced travelling time shows short-sighted policy-making on the part of our politicians and planners.

I live in a fertile valley of British Columbia, which during the past 40 years has seen major reduction of productive lands. Much of this land has gone to build golf-courses, subdivisions, industrial parks. Yearly there is increasing pressure to have lands released from the Agricultural Land Reserve for other uses than food production.  Our Valley, our own “Horn of Plenty”, is fast dwindling. Increasingly we can buy food-stuffs from far-away places more easily than we can buy food produced in our region.

At what point does sense kick in, or realization, that we must return to being primary producers of that which we consume?

Hot and Cold…

July 12, 2007

It promises to be yet another scorcher of a day today.  Yesterday a number of records for high temperatures in British Columbia have been surpassed.  It is odd that as little as a week ago the temperatures were so chilly that Rumpole insisted on turning on the heat for a couple of evenings. Water conservation rules have been put into effect, and there has been discussion about water metering being instituted.  This is timely as many people here in suburbia insist on washing their driveways and hard landscaping, which to me is a phenomenal waste of water.

I toddled next door to Looking for Beauty’s yard and watered her many plants in pots she is to transplant to her new garden as soon as she moves out here.  Wore a long-sleeved shirt, floppy hat and sunglasses for the traverse across her tarmac to her back yard gate, and the paving was so hot that surely it could have fried an omlette.

I had got up yesterday morning after a poor night’s sleep, coughing and hacking, my head stuffed with cotton wool, nose red and running and feeling very chilled.  It is weird to be going out and about on such a blasting hot day and feeling chilled.  It just seems that just after getting over another eye infection that necessitated two visits a week with my doctor, that this dratted cold got me.  Am I whining?  You bet!  Summer colds are not much fun.

It is Glasgow Girl’s birthday on Saturday, so it is unlikely that I will get a visit in with her, Renaisssance Man and Mousey.  If Rumpole doesn’t come down with this cold also, he can go and celebrate, whilst I languish here in my nightgown.  Well, what the heck!  It wouldn’t be doing the young ones any favours to infect them too.

The one good thing about this hot weather – the lawns are not growing fast, which means that the weekend will not be noisy with the sounds of lawnmowers, weed-eaters and leaf-blowers – so blessed silence will reign!

The neighbours across the street have spent the past two weeks constructing a skookum tree-fort for their growing little people.  Soon there will be the sounds of chatter from the young residents of the tree-fort, which is always amusing as kids discussions can be quite entertaining, and eavesdropping on them is one of my favourite summer past-times.  The twins have moved from next door, and our complement of children has dwindled.  Last summer they kept me in stitches playing at being CIA (in Canada) and arguing about who was to be head honcho.  They spied on the neighbours and made a running commentary on their activities, suspicious and otherwise.  The girl twin always got to be the underdog who noted on paper the movements of the people they were spying on, and her complaining was really quite eloquent, but usually to no avail.  The boy twin scanned the neighbourhood with his mother’s bird-watching binoculars, making terse commentary which he expected his sister to note down carefully.  I sure will miss these two, they were most amusing to hear chattering in the background.

Off to make some lemonade from tap-water – and thank God we have plenty of potable water from taps here.  I have already resuscitated my wilting hydrangaea, and hope to resuscitate my dry throat with some cool lemonade.

I realize that south of us in the Western States there have been horrendous hot spells, not to be compared with this minor one of ours.  However, it is really odd to be experiencing such a heat wave here.  What can this augur?

Dawn Chorus…

May 17, 2007

A gentle lambent pale grey light filters through my uncovered right eye as I awaken to an awareness of this other reality. Stirring in the cocoon of my duvet I lie, silent, listen to Rumpole breathing, waiting for the robins’ morning announcements, for the chicka-dee-dee-dee counter melodies.  Minutes pass, this morning chorus is very weak this dawn, not the familiar vigorous callings and singings back and forth among these suburban companions.  I am instinctively worried, crawl out of bed and make for the back door.  Maybe the membranes of the house prevent these familiar locutions from  being heard from  inside the house in their full vigour. Willing the sounds to be their remembered strength, I throw open the back door stand quiet, listen and note little appreciable difference in what can be heard – it seems a weak, half-hearted chorus!

 At dawn, The General, our Maine Coon cat, generally lies in the studio window listening to the birds, and eagerly waits for their first movements in and about the apple tree, their foraging in the grass at the foot of it. This morning, he is absent from his habitual perch.

Entering the kitchen, I make up a pot of coffee.  As the machine percolates, giving out its gurglings, its noises blank out any other sound. The General pads his way through, his nails clicking on the linoleum.  He pauses to rub against my shins, makes a comment and proceeds on his way to his cattish occupations.  Coffee poured, I sit musing on my observations about this morning.

When we were courting in the mid-70s, Rumpole was working as an ecologist for the Provincial Government.  One day, he presented me with Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” and requested that I read it, think about the ramifications of its contents. We had many discussions about the cautions Carson raised.

During our life together, without undue discussion, almost by silent assent, we never used pesticides on the bits of land on which we found our perch.  When one summer, up north, carpenter ants decided that our log house made an ideal haven for nests, we researched ways to get rid of them and found that pouring ground cinnamon on their paths to and from the house, along the perimeter of the foundations and into their entry points in the logs worked quite well to offend them into leaving our house.

Here in suburbia, there is a movement afoot to prevail on the municipality to ban the use of pesticides. I know people who travel to the States to purchase pesticides banned here in Canada, in order to maintain their emerald, manicured plots of lawn. Experts of varying opinion weigh in, pro and con, about pesticide use.  Much argument prevails, decisions are deferred. The local lawns retain their manufactured sameness. The decorator gardens are ubiquitous.

But the dawn chorus, that one must now strain to hear, diminishing, lessening year by year, if it finally disappears to leave a soundscape of mostly mechanical music, should be treasured above any cosmetically perfect ersatz natural surrounding we fabricate around ourselves.

Attending a Lecture…. and its aftereffect.

February 4, 2007

Last night, friend M and I drove 40km to attend a lecture at the U, entitled “Gardens as Elements of an Urbanizing World”.  The lecturer is a world-renowned  “expert on the development of landscape architecture through the ninteenth and twentieth centuries.  He was co-founder of his university’s interdisciplinary doctoral program “Practice and Theory of Creative Research in the Arts”.

I have long been looking at and considering land use in suburbia, and have noted with pleasure the increased recognition of the need for urban and suburban allottments which enable people to grow at least some of their food, if they do not already have a piece of owned earth on which to do so. What surprised me in this lecture was an almost total lack of emphasis on gardens in urban settings which could augment food supplies for people living there; I would rather have seen developments in this area, than on the history of the evolution of pleasure gardens of well-to-do landowners and leisure places of large communities.

While having breakfast, browsed on line articles from “The New York Times”, still somehow preoccupied by last night’s lecture, and came across the article:

“Smokestacks in a white wilderness divide Iceland” by Sarah Lyall, February 4, 2007. The New York Times.

Having seen many photos and artworks picturing Iceland, which is a place of peculiar beauty, and perhaps is a natural Variation of the Garden, in all its possible meanings, I was very much moved by the contents of this article – a stuggle between the need to conserve an environment and the necessity of increasing trade by a particular nation of people.